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"WHITE OLEANDER"
(2002) (Alison Lohman, Michelle Pfeiffer) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy Mild Extreme Moderate Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate None Minor None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy Moderate Heavy Moderate Moderate


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: After her domineering mother is imprisoned for murdering her boyfriend, a teen tries to break free from her influence while going through various forms of foster care.
PLOT:
Astrid Magnusson (ALISON LOHMAN) is a 15-year-old whose entire life has been controlled by her highly opinionated and domineering, yet loving artist mother, Ingrid (MICHELLE PFEIFFER). Her life is turned upside down when her mother is arrested and then convicted of killing her unfaithful boyfriend, Barry Kolker (BILLY CONNOLLY).

Suddenly left alone, Astrid finds herself at the mercy of children's services worker Miss Martinez (AMY AQUINO) who places the teen with Starr Thomas (ROBIN WRIGHT PENN), a born again Christian who's living with her married boyfriend, Ray (COLE HAUSER) and raising kids Carolee (LIZ STAUBER), Davey (MARC DONATO) and Owen (DALLAS McKINNEY).

When that situation doesn't work out and turns volatile, Astrid finds herself going through a series of foster homes - including with entertainment types Claire (RENÉE ZELLWEGER) and Mark Richards (NOAH WYLE) as well as the bohemian Rena Grushenka (SVETLANA EFREMOVA) - and an interim group home where she meets fellow artist Paul Trout (PATRICK FUGIT).

As Astrid tries to find happiness in her life, she must continually put up with and finally try to break free from her mother's influence and manipulation that extend beyond the prison walls holding her.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they're fans of anyone in the cast or of the original novel, they just might.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For mature thematic elements concerning dysfunctional relationships, drug content, language, sexuality and violence.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • ALISON LOHMAN plays a young girl who goes through various unstable foster home situations after her mother is imprisoned for murder. As she does so, she tries to break free from her mother's influence. She smokes and possibly has a fling with Ray, her foster mother's much older boyfriend.
  • MICHELLE PFEIFFER plays Astrid's strong-willed and highly opinionated mother who's imprisoned for killing her unfaithful boyfriend and continues trying to control and manipulate her daughter from behind bars. She briefly uses strong profanity.
  • ROBIN WRIGHT PENN plays a former stripper turned born again Christian who takes in Astrid as a foster child, but then becomes jealous of what she thinks is an attraction between Astrid and Ray. She smokes, sleeps with Ray, takes up drinking again, uses profanity and shoots Astrid in the shoulder during an attempt to kill her.
  • COLE HAUSER plays Starr's married boyfriend who may have a fling with Astrid (but that's only implied). He also smokes.
  • LIZ STAUBER plays Starr's teenage daughter who doesn't get along with her, sneaks out at night and eventually leaves home.
  • PATRICK FUGIT plays a young man and fellow resident of a group foster facility who befriends Astrid and is a fellow artist like her.
  • NOAH WYLE plays Claire's husband who's always away on business and apparently is having an affair.
  • RENÉE ZELLWEGER plays a B-movie actress who takes in Astrid with her husband. Her seemingly happy life, however, is anything but that, as she fears her husband is having an affair and turns out to be rather depressed.
  • SVETLANA EFREMOVA plays a bohemian type woman who takes in Astrid and other girls and uses them to scrounge for discarded items they can sell to raise money.
  • BILLY CONNOLLY plays Ingrid's lover who she kills.
  • AMY AQUINO plays a children's services worker who assigns Astrid to various foster homes.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a quick look at the content found in this drama that's been rated PG-13. Profanity consists of at least 1 use of the "f" word, while other expletives and colorful phrases are also present. Some sexually related dialogue is present, while the sounds of a sexual encounter are heard in another room. Other sexual encounters are implied/suggested, and various women are seen in revealing or tight-fitting clothing.

    Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, including a mother who kills her boyfriend (off-screen) and repeatedly tries to control and manipulate her teenage daughter and others. That results in some tense family material, while violence includes a non-fatal shooting, a fight, and a related threat via a knife. Some of those scenes, as well as the sight of an overdose victim might be disturbing to some viewers.

    Various characters smoke and/or drink (one to the point of appearing drunk), while some drug references are made. Some other behavior might be imitated. If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • We hear that Starr used to be a "coke head."
  • We hear that Starr is drinking again and she later appears drunk.
  • Ray has a beer.
  • Paul states that he was born addicted to heroin due his mother being a junkie.
  • We see a flashback to Astrid accompanying Ingrid to pick up something that Ingrid says is not FDA approved. Astrid asks what it does and Ingrid says "a lot of things" (possibly drug related).
  • Claire and Mark have wine with dinner.
  • Mark has a beer.
  • We see an empty bottle of wine next to Claire.
  • Astrid is told that some prospective foster parents make their own beer (among other things).
  • Astrid gets a beer from among many in a fridge and others there drink.
  • Ingrid states that she met Astrid's father at a party and that he had the drugs.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Ingrid has a bruise on her face (apparently from fighting or being hit by another inmate).
  • We see blood on Astrid's clothing after she's been shot.
  • Astrid has a tiny cut on her lip after a fight.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Ingrid has bad attitudes for murdering Barry (for seeing another woman) and for trying to control every aspect of Astrid's life (and ruin her foster home experiences), including criticizing her for wearing a cross (and refers to Starr as Bible-thumping trailer trash). She's also condescending about and to others (the latter in a friendly sort of way).
  • Starr is a former stripper turned born again Christian who's a hypocrite (she has sex with Ray who's not her husband) and becomes jealous of what she thinks is a thing between him and Astrid. That eventually leads her to take up drinking again and attempting to kill Astrid by shooting her.
  • Some viewers might not like Ray stating that if there's a God, he "sure as hell ain't worth praying to." In addition, when Astrid asks why he doesn't marry Starr, he replies that it's because he's already married (although he has no idea where his wife and son are and hasn't seen them in 5 years).
  • We see a flashback of Ingrid purposefully erasing the hard drive on Barry's computer.
  • Starr develops a bad and mean attitude toward Astrid after believing the girl is after Ray in a sexual/romantic fashion.
  • Various girls are mean to Astrid in a group home.
  • Mark is apparently cheating on Claire and when they're having a verbal fight, he says that he almost forgot what a bad actress she is.
  • Astrid agrees to lie on her mother's behalf in court in exchange for her mother telling her the truth about the past (the court lying never occurs).
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be disturbing or suspenseful to some viewers.
  • Fueled by booze and jealousy, Starr argues with Ray and then pulls out a gun. Astrid tries to get away, but Starr shoots her in the back (shoulder area).
  • Astrid discovers that a person in her foster home has committed suicide via an overdose.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Gun: Used by Starr to shoot Astrid in the back.
  • Knife: Used by Astrid to threaten a female bully in a group home (Paul later gives Astrid a drawing he made of her holding that knife to that girl).
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "F*ck my redemption," "Don't give me your sh*t," "Idiot," "Slut," "Bitch" (said several times), "Shut up," "Sure as hell," "Bible-thumping trailer trash," "Screwed it all up," "Whore," "Why the hell would I want to?" "Bastard" and "You didn't give a damn."
  • Astrid has a tattoo on her wrist and Starr has one on her back.
  • Carolee wears a midriff-revealing top, as does Astrid later.
  • We see a flashback of Ingrid purposefully erasing the hard drive on Barry's computer.
  • Astrid cuts her long hair with a knife.
  • We see that a person has committed suicide via an overdose.
  • Rena has her "girls" go through others' trash that's been left out on the curb (and find clothes that they can sell).
  • Astrid dyes her hair black.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A tiny bit of suspenseful music occurs.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 1 "f" word, 2 "s" words, 2 slang terms for sex ("screwing" and "doing"), 3 asses (1 used with "hole"), 3 hells, 1 crap, 1 damn, 3 uses of "G-damn," 2 each of "God" and "Oh God" and 1 use each of "Christ," "For Christ's sakes," "My God," "Oh my God" and "Swear to God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see a small porcelain figurine in a small bikini type outfit.
  • Astrid states that one of her mother's rules was never to let a man spend the night, but that she (the mom) was breaking her own rule. Ingrid then tells Astrid that Barry spent the night, but then says that he doesn't call when he's getting what he wants from someone else.
  • Ingrid then goes to see him at his house, stays inside for a while and then comes back out. She then says that Barry "made love to me" and then told her she had to leave because he had a date.
  • Starr shows cleavage and wears various tight-fitting/form-fitting clothes.
  • We hear the sounds (as do Astrid and Carolee) of Starr and Ray having sex in another room (moaning, calling out "Ray" and then bed thumping sounds). Carolee thinks that Starr is a hypocrite and says that they shouldn't be "doing it" since they're not married. She then says that the reverend of Starr's church only wants to look at Starr's "ass."
  • We hear that Starr used to a stripper.
  • We see Astrid in her panties, Carolee in her bra and Starr in her thong panties (that show most of her bare butt) as the latter tries on clothes.
  • A female prisoner makes what looks like an oral sex gesture at Astrid.
  • There's some sexual tension between Ray and Astrid and he caresses her cheek when saying that this isn't right (but we don't know if anything else happens as the scene ends there). She later goes to see him at a construction site and Ray tells everyone else to leave.
  • While drunk and jealous of Astrid, Starr says to Ray, "You used to like it fine before you started doing that little bitch." She then yells to Ray, "Admit it. You're screwing her."
  • Paul wonders if Astrid is gay, saying he gets the feeling she's not interested in guys (she says she's not). She later tells him that she's not gay and he says he knew that. They then briefly kiss.
  • We see Claire and Astrid lying on the bed looking at jewelry (and Astrid is in her panties).
  • Ingrid tells Claire that she spends so much time fighting off sexual advances in prison that she barely has time to think (a joke).
  • Astrid shows cleavage in various scenes.
  • Rena shows cleavage in various scenes.
  • Astrid sarcastically tells her mother's lawyer that maybe she'll be a lawyer, or a hooker or a garbage collector.
  • Ingrid tells Astrid that she looks like a cheap hooker in the back of a car. She then tells Astrid that she and Astrid's father had a very sexual relationship and that back then she imagined what it would be like to take a nap or make love all day and not worry about Astrid.
  • Some of Paul's sketches show nude women (nothing explicit).
  • SMOKING
  • Astrid and Ray smoke several times, while Starr, her daughter, Rena and several miscellaneous characters also smoke.
  • Rena asks one of her "girls" if she wants a smoke, but the young woman says that she gave it up due to being pregnant.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • After Ingrid is arrested for murder, Astrid finds herself in the care of children's services that places her in various foster homes. She also admits that she doesn't know who her father is (that he left when she was two, but Ingrid later says he left when Astrid was 6 months old). As the story progresses Ingrid and Astrid's relationship becomes increasingly strained.
  • When Astrid asks why he doesn't marry Starr, Ray replies that it's because he's already married, but that he has no idea where his wife or son are and hasn't seen them in 5 years.
  • Astrid and other kids hear Starr and Ray verbally fighting. Later, we hear Starr and her teenage daughter arguing and after Starr tries to slap her, the daughter leaves for good.
  • Paul states that he was born addicted to heroin due his mother being a junkie and that his parents were gone for good when he was young.
  • Claire tells Astrid that she thinks her husband is having an affair.
  • Astrid hears Claire and Mark arguing.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Foster homes and foster children.
  • Ingrid not wanting and trying not to allow Astrid to become her own person with her own beliefs and thoughts.
  • Suicide.
  • Having loved ones in prison.
  • VIOLENCE
  • We see a flashback of Barry pounding on a door, breaking some glass in it and then Ingrid cutting his hand with something. This is seen several times throughout the movie.
  • We hear that Ingrid murdered her boyfriend (but we don't see the act).
  • Ingrid has a bruise on her face (apparently from fighting or being hit by another inmate).
  • Starr tries to slap her teenage daughter who blocks the attempts.
  • Fueled by booze and jealousy, Starr argues with Ray and then pulls out a gun. Astrid tries to get away, but Starr shoots her in the back (shoulder area).
  • A girl fights with Astrid at a group home. They have to be separated and Astrid has a tiny cut on her lip.
  • Astrid holds a knife to a female bully's chin and threatens her with harm if she messes with her again (saying she'll cut her throat while she's sleeping).
  • Astrid and Claire watch one of Claire's old movies where a killer chases Claire's character with a chainsaw.
  • We see that a person has committed suicide via an overdose.
  • Astrid violently overturns things in a room upon discovering the above.



  • Reviewed September 17, 2002 / Posted October 11, 2002

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